I don’t feel like that’s for me: Overcoming barriers to mental healthcare for women veterans

Abstract: Approximately 13.6%, or approximately 250,000 of the 1.85 million veterans in England and Wales are female with numbers expected to increase alongside the number of women recruited to the UK Armed Forces. Despite this, veteran research focused on mental health support needs and help-seeking experiences continues to be predominantly focused on men.

Furthermore, whilst research highlights that UK women veterans are more likely to seek formal mental health support than their male peers evidence suggests that women are underutilising specialist veterans’ services. Emerging UK research highlights that women veterans experience gender-related barriers when accessing support, including: a lack of recognition of their veteran status, misconceptions regarding women’s roles in the Armed Forces, the impact of military cultural narratives of female weakness on help-seeking, gender discrimination by professionals, caring responsibilities, previous poor experiences of support, and gender bias in service design. Additionally, US research supports these findings and highlights discomfort or feeling unwelcome in male-dominated veteran treatment environments.

To provide a better understanding of these issues, this project set out to explore the mental healthcare support needs and experiences of women veterans in England, and to develop practical guidance for mental healthcare professionals working with women veterans, codesigned with women veterans. This report summarises the key findings of this research project, and links to practical guidance for mental healthcare professionals working with women veterans.

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